I’m sure you’ve had it before. Some kind of questionable mystery meat served to you on an airplane. As you pull back the foil, you don’t know whether to eat it or gawk at it.

Well, I’m going to divulge my big little secret to you. It’s something I discovered on a long-haul flight to New Zealand, and since then has never steered me wrong.

My big little secret? Always order vegetarian or vegan on a long flight.

You know that little tick box as you’re booking your flight that asks if you have any special dietary requirements? I know the cavemen and women in all of us brush that off as a silly thing unless you’re truly vegetarian or vegan. But trust me on this one — you will thank me the next time you fly.

Why should you forgo the chicken, beef, and pork options they’ll offer you on a plane? It’s simple — they aren’t very healthy for you. On a 10+ hour flight, one is usually a tad bit more dehydrated than usual. The atmosphere in an airplane dries you out, continuously circulating air and sapping your body of all moisture. Plus, if you’re in a window seat or middle seat, you may drink a whole lot less because you don’t want to make people get up.

And that mystery meat? Usually pork, chicken, or some sort of meat that has sodium levels out the wazoo. Maybe even fish (I’d never choose that one). The salt content in airline meat and fish dishes have to be high to preserve the meals kept on board, and to, well, make them taste decent. It’s not like we’re getting Master Chef meals prepared for us.

There are so many things happening to your body while you cruise at 400mph, 36,000 feet in the air. Things are compressing. And the last thing you want to do is turn your stomach upside down too.

Photo: Author

“Oh, wow, I don’t feel so good now…” is something I’ve heard more than a few times on long-haul flights after someone eagerly digs into their pork with rice and devours it in minutes. We’re fiendish when the meals arrive because it’s exhausting flying.

Your body needs to replenish! You’re hungry because you’ve exuded tons of energy rushing around, packing, checking in, hauling luggage, going through security, boarding the plane, and then sitting stationary for 10+ hours — your body needs some good ole’ fuel.

The vegetarian meals I eat are composed of colorful, bright, hearty vegetables with fruit on the side. Usually salad as well. And don’t worry about getting full, typically it’s accompanied by some rice as a filler and some sort of grain like a wheat roll.

Most will have lima beans or similar to give you some protein. Steamed vegetables like carrots and cauliflower to boost your nutrients. Fruit to help keep your vitamin C levels high as people cough all around you. Dark greens like spinach to kick up your iron and energy.

The last thing you need is to put a bunch of processed meat with high sodium into your body.

Want to know another big little secret of why you should order vegetarian and vegan? You get served first.

And I’m not saying first right before everyone else. Every time I’ve pre-ordered vegetarian or vegan, when the meals come out I’ve consistently been served the meal a good 30-45 minutes before everyone else. Usually, I have time to eat my meal, get up and use the restroom, and come back way before everybody else gets theirs.

That way, you don’t have to sit there while everybody around you finishes eating, AND wait for the attendants to collect the trash. And by that time, everybody is already clamoring for the toilets.

It’s a win win baby.

Photo: Author

Save the meats for the real restaurants. By ordering vegetarian or vegan, you’ll be giving your body all the things it need, not simultaneously zapping it with sodium, and you’ll get to eat far sooner than others.

Now you know my big little secret when flying. Keep it on the hush-hush — I won’t be eating first anymore if everybody catches on!